As COVID-19-related social distancing measures have been adopted and look likely to remain in place for a significant period, robotics experts now question whether the current scenario might spur investments into total blue-collar robotization in manufacturing. This paper focuses on the context of SMEs which play a major role in national economies and industrial value chains worldwide. Adopting multiple case studies, we collect data through seven interviews with SME managers in Germany, UK and Sweden during first and second quarter of 2020. Our analysis reveals administrative, technical, and economic issues impeding robotization of SMEs, but these barriers are lowered by the pandemics. The SME managers reported on the changed attitudes towards data access, remote networking and collaboration, and the early experiments to adopt robots to compensate the staff shortage on shop floors. We theorize on these impacts with a conceptual model predicting SME robotization from contingent resource-based view perspective.
Rangraz, Masood; Kazantsev, Nikolay; Subasinghage, Maduka; and M. Martinez, Tatiana, "Navigating Unchartered Territory: Early Impact of Pandemic on SMEs Robotization" (2021). PACIS 2021 Proceedings. 50.
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